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Carbon Dioxide Exercise
http://serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/interactive/examples/co2.html

Randy Richardson, SERC - Starting Point Collection

In this activity, students work in groups, plotting carbon dioxide concentrations over time on overheads and estimating the rate of change over five years. Stacked together, the overheads for the whole class show an increase on carbon dioxide over five years and annual variation driven by photosynthesis. This exercise enables students to practice basic quantitative skills and understand how important sampling intervals can be when studying changes over time. A goal is to see how small sample size may give incomplete picture of data.

Activity takes at least one class period. It requires overhead projector and transparency sheets to project compiled data sheets.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

The abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is controlled by biogeochemical cycles that continually move these components between their ocean, land, life, and atmosphere reservoirs. The abundance of carbon in the atmosphere is reduced through seafloor accumulation of marine sediments and accumulation of plant biomass and is increased through deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels as well as through other processes.
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Natural processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere operate slowly when compared to the processes that are now adding it to the atmosphere. Thus, carbon dioxide introduced into the atmosphere today may remain there for a century or more. Other greenhouse gases, including some created by humans, may remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years.
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Environmental observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system. From the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the Sun, instruments on weather stations, buoys, satellites, and other platforms collect climate data. To learn about past climates, scientists use natural records, such as tree rings, ice cores, and sedimentary layers. Historical observations, such as native knowledge and personal journals, also document past climate change.
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Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
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G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
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E) Organizing information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
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A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
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C) Energy.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:D) Flow of matter and energy
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D) Flow of matter and energy.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Clear instructions are in the student handout. Note that there are two options for distributing the data points.
  • If part 2 on the student handout is used for homework, educator must provide compiled CO2 curve ahead of time.
  • Students could be challenged to investigate why CO2 is increasing (natural variation and/or anthropogenic sources).

About the Science

  • Allows students to work with real data through the simple graphing of original CO2 data at Mauna Loa. Good basic introduction to the Keeling curve.
  • Added insight that when data points are collected (i.e. sampling interval) can have a substantial bearing on the interpretation of the data; the idea of outliers can also be introduced.
  • Tackles a small part of understanding atmospheric CO2 and does so very effectively.
  • Uses data from 2005 through March 2012 (activity says in descriptions of files etc that data only available through 2011 but it actually includes data from 2012).
  • Useful for addressing misconceptions about atmospheric CO2 concentrations and measurements.

About the Pedagogy

  • Guides students step-wise into plotting a small bit of the data and then fitting it into a larger set of data.
  • Interpretation starts out fuzzy then becomes focused as more data points are added (simulates real world science).
  • Engaging group activity.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • All relevant data is given in the activity.
  • Requires overhead projector and transparency sheets to project compiled data sheets.

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